The Final Straw for Sustainability
Over 500 million drinking straws are used everyday in America alone; this turns to an average of 1.6 straws per person per day. Research shows there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the world's oceans by 2050– straws are a contributing factor since the vast majority are never recycled. The initiative to become globally sustainable by increasing awareness has become extremely prominent among the younger generations. Movements such as National Skip the Straw Day and The Last Plastic straw gained traction within recent years among many. The fight against plastic waste, specifically in the oceans, fought its way into many people’s hearts and caused individuals to examine the small ways to make a difference in order to slowly make the use of straws obsolete.
The Marine Conservation Society estimates that 8.5 billion single-use plastic straws are thrown away in the United Kingdom every year. On average, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year; and according to Waste Management Analysis, only 1% of those plastic bags are returned for recycling. Americans also purchase approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles a year. In 2016, the world plastic production totaled around 225 million metric ton; roughly half of this annual production was designed for single-use products.
Currently, there are actions taken by larger corporations, such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Disney World Parks, to decrease plastic straw usage. Some companies have changed their cups to become straw free unless requested, while others have substituted with biodegradable alternatives. However, individual companies are not the only ones banning the usage of straws– legislative teams are causing it to be illegal in certain cities, states, and countries. Internationally, the United Kingdom is enforcing stronger laws against single-use plastics throughout the entire European Union. Nationally, Florida and California, as well as the west coast as a whole, have began the process to legally enforce the straw bans. Plastic straw manufacturers are already expected to decrease production and prepare for the negative impacts among their companies.
Disney World Parks use an alternative to traditional plastic straws by offering biodegradable paper straws at their Animal Kingdom theme park due to their passion for conservation. They are slowing incorporating this to their other parks as well specifically, Magic Kingdom. The collaboration of United Kingdom legislative and McDonald’s strategic planning has caused for the immediate plastic straw ban throughout all UK McDonald’s locations. Not only is the corporation stopping the usage of plastic straws, but they are beginning the early stages of testing a biodegradable alternative for their customers, as well as 100% recycled paper wrappings. With the 1,300 McDonald’s UK retail locations and an average of almost 4 million customers every day, this change will start to impact of single-use plastic. McDonald’s has released a statement that they will soon begin to plan the expansion of this ban throughout their global locations, specifically the United States and Canada. Slowly but surely, McDonald’s will phase out plastic products within all of their retail locations to align with their core values of overall awareness, societal climate of environmental sustainability, and corporate responsibility. This large notion will hopefully cause a domino effect among all other fast-food chains and food locations in general.
Starbucks is another recent example of a global corporation claiming corporate responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint. Again, the United Kingdom shows the initiative compared to other countries while all UK Starbucks locations will replace plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws. Action of such magnitude is taken in response to recent massive public backlash, multitude of change.org petitions, and criticism among public figures against Starbucks. Starbucks has been criticized in the public light for a multitude of reasoning recently and has so far been responding positively to fixing the issues. During the trial run of the environmental sustainability initiative, the company is planning to start a rewards programs to certain retail location’s customers that utilize their reusable cups.
While straws make up a minuscule proportion of the global plastic waste, the initiatives to halt plastic straw usage is meant to cause people to think about the everyday smaller changes can impact the whole picture. The understanding that small changes in daily behavior can have long lasting positive effects on the environment. Straw ban initiative is also showing that some plastic products are overall just unnecessary; there are better biodegradable options to plastic straws… even sipping directly from the cup. The daily impacts of becoming environmentally aware and obtaining beneficial knowledge as a whole society can and will have positive effects to the entire ecosystem.
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